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Hummers everywhere

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds,Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Monday March 17, 2014

Just a quick add for future “reference” . . . . . . about a lot of just now arriving-for-the-season Rufus Hummingbirds.

We always begin looking for their arrival in early March. The first ones seen are often just passing through, heading into Canada likely. The first ones to arrive are always the MALES. They arrive to scout out good territory, where food’s available, and a place the females will also see easy food sources. You may see a few of these “early” migrants for a day or two, feeding, resting….but they move on. This year, from the first sighting of a male arrival, the numbers grew one by one, just 2-3 for the last two weeks.

I am always awestruck to see the first one Rufus KNOWING this TINY creature has just flown some 2-3 thousand miles through spring coastal storms from Mexico, and many will CONTINUE north:

Well, it appears not many moved on, or I wasn’t paying attention……..Boom! With cousin Stan and Mary visiting us this week, we were all sitting at the Kitchen island for breakfast / tea. While chatting, I was STRUCK quickly how EVERY hummingbird feeder I could see from there (3) was ‘set’ with a male guarding it and females continuing to fly in and try to eat….. at all 3 feeders at ONCE! I checked the others, it was true of those also. I returned to look at the primary one in the front window….it was EMPTY.

****note on this picture: A male Rufus….confronting a female Anna’s (year round residents)…..for some reason, they don’t always fight with this ‘larger’ cousin****

WELL. That made me glad Mary & Stan were here…..I realized I had NOT been paying enough attention to the “numbers” of arriving Rufus….. I quickly put on 6 quarts of sugar/water to boil and get ready……pulled out the LAST 2 pints left in the garage fridge and replaced the empty feeder…. as SOON as the others are cool, I’ll immediately put out 2-3 more feeders, replace the heavy use ones with Quart size feeders.

The Hummingbird Season has begun. I can’t wait for an evening in May when the first hatchlings are fledged and we’ll likely be seeing these numbers are feeders on some COOL spring night:

I can’t close this without giving DUE credit to our tough year-round resident Anna’s….who ALL used to fly to the lowlands for winters….but Audubon believes “some” began staying up here through the winters simply by enough people leaving feeders out for them… we do that….. they’re completely different than the Rufus, less agressive, larger….but then, of course, they don’t make a 4 – 5 thousand mile migration every year…. Here’s one of our male Annas:

So, Whew! Hummingbird sugar/water is cooked alongside home-made Kahlua and both are now cooling……Stan & Mary are off to OHSU, Rodger’s working, so I’ll take Mac for an over-due Columbia River SWIM….so tonight while we all visit, He’ll be worn out.

Hummingbird Life @ 9336 A big learning year

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds,Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Thursday June 20, 2013

After 12-13 years of preparing the simple sugar-water solution that feeds a beloved tiny migrant bird that comes up here from Mexico for a short 3-5 months, I feel like I’ve learned more THIS spring than I expected.

Some facts:
**Portland has year-round hummingbirds, called “Annas” . . . that, until 20 years ago were pretty much ‘valley’ birds…. they would visit the hills in the summer but never stay year round
annas feeding

For an undetermined reason, but thought to be the fact that more homes have been built up here in the hills, and MORE people began feeding the hummers, a few Anna’s slowly began to stay year round….tiny numbers…… By 2013, I wish I could COUNT between Anna’s and the migrant and fun Rufus who make, for their size, the longest migrant trip of any animal on the planet.

**Anna’s are calmer birds than Rufus. Anna’s ARE territorial, just don’t seem quite as much…. When I carry a feeder re-fill to the replacement spot, an Anna will sit there staring at me much longer than the wild Rufus….they may only fly a few yards away to wait until my task is done…. Rufus will seem to disappear up into the fir trees…

**The Migration Pattern is fascinating for Rufus….and itself is, in a tiny way, changing. Begin: ALL of them are somewhere warm in some Mexico regions……..after arriving for winter anytime between September – October, they get restless around February. The males react first and leave…. and until recently, ALL of them began flying up along the California Coast (because first spring blooming is occurring THERE, not inland)…… We likely see none of the first, unless one feeds for a moment and moves on:

But by late March, early April, we’re seeing one or two now and then, already setting up his own mating territory, and he’ll defend it strongly.

Sometimes they’re striking in a photo if the sun reflects that beautiful gorget:
rufus males gone

The FEMALES / Yearlings then leave, and follow the same pattern….. The MOST interesting FACT IS: Territory. The genetics are so hard coded in these tiny miniscule brains, they seek out and usually find not just the are they were raised in, but the same neighborhood, and not just that, but will look for the very SAME Feeder that they used the year before… isn’t unusual to see a hummingbird fly into your yard late March/early April zipping around a spot you had a feeder up the year before. Whew!

The Females arrive here to be met by a few males ALL ready to mate and have to deal with that ‘action’ even before they’ve got a nest ready to go. A nest made of soft forest bits tied together with spider webs, and there’s plenty of webs made by the spring spiders ……. The mating done, and nesting begun, one wonders what happened to your birds? They almost seem to disappear….. then the first hatchlings (both Anna’s and Rufus……now……..) often cause you to put out MORE feeders than earlier…..(We will have 10 up for the 2-3 month peak period ) and from that late-May period, you learn to love these little birds.

Once fledged, the youngsters are on their own because Momma Rufus and Dad mate AGAIN for a 2nd nesting! There is NO mistaking seeing a fledgling at your feeder…..almost larger than the parents because of her fluffed feathers, this kid looks cold:

However, the MOST Astounding THING I’ve learned THIS year comes from the Anna’s Hummingbirds, proving they’re finally here in greater numbers than I’ve known. The first time I had NO idea what that high 2-3 second loud chirp was, but followed the sound to watch a male diving straight down from somewhere between 100-150′ toward a female, and drawing himself up just short of reaching her, in a posture with all wings, tail-feathers spread….the tail feathers causing the chirp. This mating behavior was repeated for 3-4 weeks for us both…..and considering it’s luck to see it by being in the right place at the right time, this was THRILL summer for me if that was all that happened. It was astounding to watch….this SO TINY creature doing such a powerful thrilling straight up climb, preparing, and diving straight down, curving up at the bottom….with that distinct “CHIRP”….. I couldn’t even find a you-tube on the web (of any quality) that equaled what we repeatedly witnessed. Lucky us, yes.

The males… NOTHING to help with ANY child rearing or nest building. They stick around to mate. Once the 2nd mating’s done, they are GONE! That’s about to happen right here for us…..the males we’re seeing now are mostly juveniles, whose colors aren’t quite to brightly developed and they’re not yet so aggressive.

The migration partern back to MX? NO, NOT back down to California…the blooming’s done there now…..These males head east, often right along the Gorge and highest mountain ridges (wherever the blooming’s happening and/or insects are around)…and eventually move DOWN the spine of the Rocky Mountains back into MX. The FEMALES? Once their 2nd nestlings are fledged, they TOO leave (JUST ADULTS)……following that pattern. Then the unbelievable happens. Late August or so, the young juvenile Rufus kids leave here, and Alaska, Canada, ON THEIR OWN, flying down that same migratory pathway the adults made with NO guide, NO help at all! It’s an amazing science fact!

We’re then left to leave up 2 feeders for the winter…….having moved from .1 quarts a day in February, to .2 in March, to .3 – .4 in April, but by Mid-May, will explode up to 5 quarts per day when the Rufus are here, and first hatchlings are at the feeders…….
cold hummers

By Mid-June, that drops to 2.5 quarts for another very short few weeks (aided in part by all the flowers blooming and insects flying around), and by Sept 1, we’ll be back to .2 or .3 quarts…… What a time it was.

The birds feeding behavior is affected by the nesting, the weather, and how many birds are here. When we get cold snaps, they’ll gang up at feeders and at cold evenings, will seem to draw a truce about territory….even sometimes one hovering or sitting on another’s shoulder while it drinks, and when that birds pulls out the beak, the hoverer feeds:

Maybe the crowd’s gotten bigger each year because yard plantings, experience has made us better bird attractors…. much of this is sure big thanks to dear friend Nancy Grossenbacher who taught us all the basics…. It IS a joy to see these tiny birds in the yard, not necessarily at a feeder but at flowers, after insects, and hovering everywhere in the evenings.

One of the best life experiences of living up here in the Rain Forest.

NATURE 130% in June / Portland, OR.

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds,Nature,Oregon,Pacific Northwest,Passerines by mark Monday June 4, 2012

I can’t imagine how brilliant writers have the day I had today and not make a complete NOVEL out of what tiny little nature things that walked/flew around this house.

1) Squirrels. Have born young, the young are no longer nursing, and are out in the “community of squirrels” (Eastern Fox, Eastern Gray Fox, Douglas **native)… They only localize off our rear deck because of the 8 bird feeding stations where seeds drop to the ground.

But ONCE in June when the young are no longer allowed to nurse, and are brought TO this feeding station, to learn the science of what their diet IS, they are so soon spurned and turned away, and chased away by vocalizing parents (and others)………that it’s a bit sad, but they learn they must go off and find their own “territory”….not uncommon in nature. **At least I’m happy they’re eating most of the dropped seed….to keep any mice/rats at bay.

2) DEER. ONCE A YEAR, Doe give birth to fawns…and just AS they do, they give their yearlings eviction notices. Only Once a year, the deer seem to disappear, then while Mom and baby are quietly hiding/nursing, the yearlings appear alone, seemingly a bit lost, and HUNGRY. Today! That happened a yearling buck walked right by our windows to the seed/log we just got……and relished in that find for about 5 minutes…when MAC realized there was an alien who he KNEW was going to destroy our civilization. The barking spooked the dear, but he was back soon SO hungry. It was a fabulous watch for 5 minutes….then he ambled up the side of the house toward the vegetable garden. WOOPS! I have NOT put that deer fence that goes up EVERY year June 1………….. I finally had to let him know I WAS in this “pasture”….and opened the window….he pranced quickly away.

***and of course NO photos……when I simply turned my shoulder, this askeered little deer immediately looked my direction……quiet and NO movement allowed this to happen. I had a great time.

BUT……..TONIGHT, JUST NOW, I spent 30 minutes watching him return to the SEED BLOCK 20 ft from the window…..dine to his hearts content….then amble to the front of the house for salad, aka, apple tree leaves….and I think he ate too much for MY comfort, and then graze in the pasture. THIS was a NATURE MOMENT of a lifetime……..beautiful young sleek native DEER!. Ah, Yes.

3) FLYING SQUIRRELS: After not seeing them for a couple weeks, was SO happy to see -4- of them at once last night in the feeder….seems like THEIR young are ALSO not nursed to completion, and, NO, we hadn’t love them, they’re back! HURRAY. AND it was FUN to see them comfortable 15′ from my chair dining at length.

4) OWLS. Yes, it’s their time too. JUST Thursday, on the dog hike, I was a bit ahead of the group, and SAW a barred owl, very close, FLY in front of me, turn and land on a branch not 100′ away……she watched us…until the group got close and flew further……. End of story? NO! On the weekend, group member Arnie ran into the scientist doing the wildlife count this month for Forest Park, fabulous John Deshler (google him)….. and John not only showed him that very NEST that I was SO close to) but sent him photos of the chicks his nature photog Scott Carpenter had taken.

I am SO thrilled to NOW be able to not just walk the dog, but go check on the progress of the 4 little owlets………….

5) Oregon Juncos. These poor little bottom of the food chain birds NEST IN THE LAWN or on the ground…..SO defenseless…..almost EVERY year we get ONE….we found one, she had five eggs. NOW, 2 are hatched doing well (today), one egg/young disappeared, and should be 2 more tomorrow or……. AND yes, we protect them by putting a tomato cage around that lawn spot…..that is not touched or mowed until the young are fledged:

6) RAIN. Yep, it’s becoming the Junuary I hate……….I HAD to put sluggo on the borders of the garden near the lettuce…..who knows…….and snow levels will get down to 3500′ tonight…… We will know Wednesday……..

What an exciting 2012 THIS is starting out to be…………I had a nature day I’ll never forget.

HIGH Summer – some are leaving us

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds,Passerines by mark Sunday July 25, 2010

High summer is a fabulous time, no argument. It’s also the time some of our loved short-timer songbirds already LEAVE us to begin heading back to So. Ca., or MX.

Our beloved Evening Grosbeaks just fledged their 2nd nest youngsters this week.

They are, by nature birds that live in flocks and they nomadically travel in flocks…sometimes up to 20-30 . . . . . . . IT IS ONLY during the nesting season that they split up. At first sight of them this spring, we counted 15 at the feeder….within a week they’d split up into pairs, most leaving this neighborhood. We had about 3-4 pair nest here.

Last Monday, that very nesting “group” began a rather new “chortling” whistle call between themselves, a call to “gather the flock, it’s time to leave“… . . . . . . it got more active by Tuesday when I NO longer even saw them appearing at our feeders. By Wednesday morning? NOT a peep and not one since. They have gone! I’m a bit saddened when THIS cheerful, confident, beauty of nature departs us until next late April.

Most robins have departed.

The Black-Headed Grosbeaks, the other favorite, are just NOW fledging their 2nd batch-o-kids, and I expect to see them disappear in the next week or two….THEY will be going all the way to Mexico, so need a good start.

ALL our Adult Rufous Hummingbirds have been gone a bit, and very FEW juveniles are even here. Feeding volume has dropped from 2 1/2 quarts a day to about a 1/2 now……..and will reduce even more when most of our Anna’s will leave for the valley as soon as summer’s over.

Goldfinches are just finishing their 2nd nesting…… and although they’ll stick around until it begins cooling, they’ll begin to lose their colors.

Oh well………I will miss the Grosbeaks.

Portland. 3rd wettest May on Record

Bloged in birding,garden,General Home Life by mark Tuesday June 1, 2010

May ended yesterday as the 3rd wettest May on Record….May is not as wet a month as you think…it is the month the sun has moved north enough to begin drying things out, there are more sunny days. People gang up at greenhouses excited by the prospect of a summer possibly happening. SOME native plants are very happy. Iris have never bloomed earlier or fuller

Our flowering allium has been rather dramatic

The berm we’d built a few years ago is finally looking nice:

**ahem, I have purposely left out the base of the berm being destroyed by mole hills…..they’re evil.

I like the mix of color on the berm:

Our lovely Oxalis patch (THANK you, Nancy G!!!), left me wondering if our fat little Buddha was still okay:

Yep, HE, at least is still smiling:

Not everything’s smiling, including me. Many things are dying. I mean rotting in mud, or eaten by bugs/slugs
. The peas are about dead:

**peas are hardy spring plants that should tolerate this wet. There are many more: carrots, lettuces, marigolds, et.

What happened?

El Nino came through here this winter. By normal standards that meant things were fairly dry…until last of April and then May happened. We all pretended it wasn’t, we kept buying and planting. NOW?

JUNE is beginning with an evil laugh toward gardeners here. Tonight & Tomorrow are bringing 1-3 inches of MORE rain here on top of MUDDY gardens.

Here’s my garden / yard update for this slog fest, that I am really unhappy about…..but hoping I’m going to save something.
– – – –
On the deck, I’ve placed everything that fits under tables/sawhorses:

*Under the sawhorses…I know, not very creative. Hopefully needed for two days:

Under table 1:

And there are more under table 2.

In the garden, where “Walls-Water” have been semi-protecting our precious tomatoes, I’ve placed little plastic grocery bags over the open holes at the top….There are 20 such “walls” out there, so I’m relieved to have all the ‘maters & peppers covered for this storm.

Everything I CAN fit into the $20 coldframe/greenhouse we got 4 years ago, is behind this cover (makes me want to take getting a little REAL greenhouse a serious plan):


Still, though, some animals have laughed at us. All the Teddy Bear sunflower seeds I planted were stolen by squirrels who have a lot of nerve….they should ONLY take seed they personally have buried, right?

Lastly, We placed the Goddess of Fertility and Sun out there, and I hope she keeps dancing till the rain leaves:

AND FINALLY, a tiny blurb of wonder. As I walked toward the garden with baggies in hand, a little Oregon native Junco flew out of the lawn……a lawn I’d just mowed Saturday. As I peeked at that spot, there it was. I immediately got a tomato cage, covered it with some plastic and voila, the nest will be dry tonight:

A bit closer:

precious life is incubating here hoping for a warm Mom to get back soon (POST SCRIPT 1930 hours….MOM is back and nesting, yeah!):

I with I could have found the nest before I mowed, but hey…they’re okay, and now fenced off. It is NO wonder Junco’s must raise 4 batches of young a year. This sure is NOT a safe place to be nesting.

HOPEFULLY, NEXT week will produce some DRY air, drying soil, some sun, and some plants saying, “Thanks, Mark…..”

I KNOW………lots of people have lost their homes, dreams this year in REAL disasters…..and I have no intent to diminish that horror. I still reserve my right to whine.

A breather coming?

Bloged in birding,food: recipes + dining out,General Home Life by mark Sunday May 23, 2010

We have just finished a most pleasant week enjoying the company of a vacationing friend. Homer was kind enough to join us here for a week that’s been filled with good food, fun lots of talk, Sauvie Island Birding, dog walks, talks, the gorge, Homer’s Pies: Lemon Meringue & THEN, a fresh rhubarb/strawberry (his own recipe)….and let me say, when Homer T says he can make a good pie, he KNOWS what he’s talking about. I am determined to learn HOW to make that rhubarb/strawberry/pecan wonder.

The gorge is always a great view from Crown Point, eh?

We ALL got some thrills on our birding trip: 1) A bald eagle hatchling being fed in the giant nest….fabulous, and…. 2) The Heron Rookeries we posted about a while back are SO very alive now with 2-3 big heron babies in each nest sounding out calls to parents constantly (it’s how they recognize and find their own “kids”)…..THAT was thrilling. When the trees were leafing out 3 weeks ago, we thought we wouldn’t see the birds again…we DID.

We enjoyed some fine Portland food at home, John St Cafe, Ya Hala, Pause Restaurant, and Swagat-Orenco –to name a few….. (do not remotely think any of the other “Swagat’s in this town are connected to, or even close to the beautiful presentation and incredible variety of rich northern Indian food this place offers…no matter what the web site indicates. This one is run by a separate group of people).

At one point, we certainly enjoyed how someone carefully changed the “P” to an “F” on this advertising car . . .

Sadly, we’ll say goodbye to this “animal whisperer” friend tomorrow…..and maybe begin getting to the “to-do” list that’s been idle for a week, dang! After all, even without Homer here, it has been nothing but spring storms / hail / rain / wind every day. One night, we ate my Mom’s Recipe for Enchiladas de Santa Fe in the dark here ….

the power remained out until early morning hours.
The link points to the recipe I’ve posted long ago here. Oh well.

May has been a month with NO pauses, and I have some more worthwhile material to put here in my diary…..but I must get to that tomorrow. We had TWO beautifully inspiring and fun outings with Nancy G & Carol to fabulous nurseries in the Willamette valley…. that’s next up.

The birding excitement was high all week. This is that time of year here in the hills/forests, the song birds are ALL HERE singing in the mornings….eating about 2 quarts of sunflower seed a day plus other mixes. IT is fun.

Birds now feeding at 9336

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds,Pacific Northwest,Passerines by mark Tuesday May 4, 2010

THIS morning, I’m happy…. so far, I’ve seen these guys at the feeders (DISCLAIMER: Except for Rodger’s close-up shots of the two hummers near the end of this post, the bird pics ARE NOT ours… time to set up portraits for everybody….I’m just wanting to note who’s here early in May):
* Both white and red breasted nuthatches….cute, little, but not shy birds!
**above, red, below, white:

* Oregon Juncos, and not just the black headed ones.

* Mourning Dove

….yes, one of the most peaceful birds around.
* Band tailed pidgeon
…..big clumsy oafs…..silly birds.
* Stellar Jays

* Evening Grosbeak….written about last week here….

* Black headed Grosbeak — who seems to be moving in, YES!

……absolutely one of the most beautiful calls we see in the spring is the Black Headed Grosbeak song..(click on “listen)..inviting the girls over.

* One Golden Crowned Kinglet…only passing through…he didn’t stay.

*American Goldfinches….all pairing up now for the season

* Littlest Woodpecker, the “Downy”:

* The medium sized Hairy Woodpecker:

* Black capped Chicadees….lovely little families of these in summer:

*And year round beauty, The Spotted Towhee:

We LOVE the songbird season!

Now………….on to the real reason I had to make a diary note.
*** Annas & Rufous Hummingbirds. **

It is near record breaking cold for May…we were in the 30’s last night. WHEN THAT happens, hummingbirds, who have NO fat stored, crowd the feeders evening and morning… was pretty fabulous to watch that last night at dusk.

More-so was the little trick we learned to get closer to them….
(THESE two pics ARE OURS….taken just as close as it looks like it was!!!)….One quart feeder is about one foot from a maple tree trunk….we’ve learned to get just in front of the trunk, do NOT move, no sound, and very quickly, the little hummers came in to feed…(yes, the camera “click” would scare them)…but here’s the example…..these are TWO female hummingbirds, first is the Rufous (note she’s smaller, and a bit more tan shade):

NEXT, the female Anna’s, almost all shades of lovely green, and larger:

Rodger captured these beauties….so we could show JUST how close we WERE to the birds. I think he’ll be perfecting some by w/e. …it was a new test for all of us…including the birds!

and PS:
**Last friday, I was lucky to see a large flock (about 15) Yellow-Rumped Warblers move through the tree tops digging for insects in the branches….just slowly moved across the panorama….in their little beauty, and their Yellow-Rumped Calls weren’t bad either. THEN, this morning, a PAIR has returned…looking over the feeding space, and just “maybe” we’ll get a breeding pair close to home.

A new update about Evening Grosbeaks:
**A couple weeks ago, I noted the migrating Evening Grosbeaks passing through….I should have linked to a site where there chirping sounds exactly as it does in nature: Evening Grosbeaks Calling . SINCE that time, we just MAY have lucked out once again! Today, 2 matched pair returned to feed….**WILL we get to see them raise a family?

How NW Garden “fever” Starts. . . .

Bloged in food: recipes + dining out,garden,General Home Life,Hummingbirds by mark Friday April 30, 2010

Well, for starters:
1) It is sunny out today, temps will be low 60’s.
2) We already HAVE lettuce starts IN the ground guarding them against slugs and bugs….but there is “hope”.
3) Songibirds are here… WANT to be outside.
4) The Clackamas County Master Gardener’s Sale is on THIS weekend in Canby, OR at the County Fairgrounds. Oregon’s LARGEST plant sale, it will be, as always, exciting, fun, and we’ll be joining friends.
5) Lunch after the sale for “discussion” about what was seen and garden plans.
6) The truck is already loaded with the Garden wagon…and tires inflated properly.
But the BIGGEST reason I want a garden started soon?

**Last night, I prepared this wonderful fresh tasting Pasta Sauce:

The contents?
a) the LAST container in the freezer of last year’s fresh frozen tomato sauce made from ‘maters, onions, basil, peppers, ALL from last year’s garden. **and of course, added: dried red pepper flakes (our garden) and some sausage!
b) 4-5 cubes of frozen pesto, all of it from last year’s basil …yep, from the garden.
c) one pint of roasted tomatoes, right, from LAST year’s garden.

We’re running out of last year’s “stuff”. . . . .

IF the ground were dryer, I’d rototill today….but in our rain forest, we must wait another couple weeks anyway, depending on the weather.

So here goes, another year, hopefully, a better garden than last year considering I don’t have a broken leg to hold me back! Hurray!

Soon, I hope this yard will look like this:

Squirrel note: WE found out HOW the squirrel was jumping onto the tray feeder. He climbed up the cedar tree….out to a branch at least 15 feet away….took a flying leap, grabbed on to the hook as he passed by, and voila! He’d be eating. As soon as I saw it, I went out, climbed up, sawed off 18″ of that branch. I can’t wait to see him try it again. . . with hopes I get a laugh at what I see. Hah.

Hummingbirds are everywhere……………it is a grand time for us and the neighbors who love watching them…..

Hurray for spring, I’d best go mow that dang lawn…….. AGAIN!!!

Woods Life: Nature puzzles

Bloged in birding,General Home Life,Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Monday April 19, 2010

AH! We’re finally peeking out of the house! Some sunshine is sneaking in here, and I can feel a LIVE heartbeat again! Happy! A week ago, we grabbed the scopes, cameras, and joined cousin Nancy for an outing to Oaks Bottom…..a fabulous bird watching wetland…..3 mile hike around it and you have some heartwarming experiences. We saw our FIRST baby ducklings of the year (10 and Mom)…. THAT was a Fabulous day. Thanks, Nancy!

This week, We even ventured out to Cirque de Soleil – Kooza (fabulous). After that worked so well, we drove down yesterday afternoon to friend Ian’s surprise Birthday Party / Softball Game yesterday thrown by fabulous wife Kate (fabulous):

We made cookies for the party, plus there was lots more:

YES, we are gaining weight off the leftovers…

HOWEVER. There HAS been some strangeness worming through the little ranchette lately………… We ARE in the woods, we DO have wildlife of all kinds. Sometimes it takes a week or two to solve……maybe.

First mystery was solved yesterday. The puzzle? We have a strange little suet feeder meant to keep large birds/squirrels out, and allow the little birds in to feed:

…you just pour the seeds into that “suet cube” holder”:

….hang it on the tree

and voila! It worked that way for a season….THEN, a little native Douglas Squirrel (our favorite little brown squirrels…), realized he WAS “skinny” enough to squeeze through, grab a nut, slip out, and feast. HENCE: No big deal, we kept putting peanuts in there, and our favorite native squirrel can had his own private food stock.

THIS year, we tried that again, and for some reason, that squirrel (or his descendant) must have been eating too many quarter pounders….HE’s a bit too fat to squeeze in…. THAT is WHEN the mystery began. The feeder remained full all day. But the next MORNING, it was empty……. WHO DO YOU BLAME? You ALWAYS BLAME the raccoons, of course. I moved it, and began placing it on the barbecue some nights:

Of course, if I did, I had to make sure I was out early and got it back on the tree, else the big Fox Squirrels (yes, your cute big thick bushy tailed ones) tore the heck out of everything. So I just moved it around, but every morning it would be empty.

I kept wondering why or HOW a raccoon was getting the peanuts out and not ripping apart the feeder itself.

Yesterday arrived with sun, 70 degrees and a decision to maybe have our first BBQ’d chicken of the year! Rodger’s the great BBQ chef, so naturally, Rodger faithfully accepted BBQ cleanup task. Armed with brushes, cleaner, he took off the cover, lifted the lid to see this:

Apparently, most of the mouse family had grown and gone, we only saw 3-4 escape this lovely Mouse House. Are we MORE annoyed it was there (yuk), OR because it was made with insulation from under the house! Dang! No wonder the heat bill’s going up! The BIG part of the story was this: About a gallon of peanut shells were in here, around it, below it. Peanut Mystery Solved! Poor raccoons had nothing to do with it.

Okay, moving on, mystery #2. We have 3 shepherd hooks with bird feeders hanging from them. You can only do that successfully if you mount baffles on the pole to keep the squirrels from climbing up and devouring it all. THIS M.O. has worked beautifully for about 10 years:

This time of year, we’re looking out there a LOT waiting for the arrival of our songbirds for their annual nesting and rich singing extravaganzas we love every summer. SO. TWO weeks ago, I look out there to see a big Fox squirrel sitting in the feeder eating. Mac ran him off quick, but he was back in an hour. This had only happened once before, and that time, the feeder was simply to close to the Cedar tree so he simply jumped from the lowest branch onto the feeder. Was that the problem?

**I moved the pole out one more foot…..and waited a day or two. Woops! There he was again. Was he jumping from the ground?

… I have watched and watched and seen nothing to support that belief.
From the slope side of these feeders there’s another small tree…maybe he’s jumping from there?

….I measured and still don’t think this was the take off point.

SO: We do NOT know HOW this one aggressive squirrel is doing it.…..THAT mystery remains unsolved….can ANYONE please come up and we take turns sitting at the window till we catch him in the act?

By the way, on that slope side, there is a trail that runs down into the forest. NO HUMAN walks it. It is used by wildlife only, but is used heavily enough, you’d swear it was in a park for hiking:

….I would LOVE to have a NIGHT camera and record everything that moves out here at night…………. THAT would solve a few mysteries on its own.

So, ONE mystery solved (and the BBQ chicken is delicious!!! Rodger’s a GREAT BBQ chef), and one remains in the dark.

**ONE another note, as I was walking back up a trail this morning, I hear/see a pickup park on the gravel road TO the lot in Forest Park, see a guy get out and start making Saw Whet Owl whistles (a plain one note call)…….I thought “weirdo” until I HEARD the OWL begin to answer him. The guy pulled out his binoculars and began to look for the bird. Guess what “I” will be doing tomorrow morning!!!!!!

Saw Whet Owl Call at this link: Northern Saw-Whet Owl Call.
….and why am I happy he’s here? These guys will kill LOTS of mice!

And lastly, our own home SUET FEEDER that gets our Home-Made Suet is doing WELL:

….Seems EVERYBODY loves that feeder….I suppose the “post” the holes are drilled into gives it a very natural feel……

AW! Doesn’t this sound like spring!

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